Growing a Hockey Player
Beyond the Box Score
D&K Farming is a 24/7 operation. And Brock Maschmeyer drew the night shift.
Two months after hockey season ends, seeding season begins at Maschmeyer’s family farm. Every night at 10 p.m. sharp, he’ll climb into an air seeder, a tractor attached to two tanks and a seeding drill that spreads seeds and fertilizer, and drive it through the fields, row by row, until 10 a.m.
“It takes a lot of discipline,” Maschmeyer said. “You have to go out there every night knowing you’re going to do the same thing for 12 hours. You have to be disciplined enough to get up, get out there on time and do it for a month straight, with no days off.”
D&K Farming has been in Maschmeyer’s family since his grandmother, Karol, founded it 41 years ago. Roughly three miles outside of Bruderheim, Alberta, the farm sprawls across 8,500 acres and produces canola, wheat and barley.
It has also produced hockey players.
Maschmeyer, a 2015 all-WCHA third team selection and Northern Michigan assistant captain, is one of three siblings who plays NCAA Division I hockey. His older brother skated in the Western Hockey League for four seasons and plans to sign with a German professional team.
On the ice, the middle Maschmeyer is a puck-moving defenseman who plays in all situations and rarely misses a game. The junior skated in his 100th collegiate game Feb. 13 and was last held out of the lineup in February of his freshman season.
“We always say he’s a farm kid from Alberta, and those guys know what work really is,” head coach Walt Kyle ’81 BS said. “He shows up every day, does whatever he’s asked to do and leads the other guys by that example. He doesn’t complain, no matter how hard the road gets.”
That’s because Maschmeyer is no stranger to hard work.
May is seeding season, which gives Maschmeyer little time to relax after wrapping up the school year. In a good year, seeding ends the last week of May, but it can run until mid-June if there are any equipment malfunctions or weather-related delays. With so much land to cover, family members and employees work around the clock.
“It’s tough when you’re trying to train and skate, especially doing what Brock’s doing,” said senior forward Justin Rose, who worked at D&K Farming and has also held other labor jobs. “They have a ridiculous amount of land, and, when they’re seeding, they’re working a month straight for 12 hours a day, sometimes more. When you’re grinding out work like that, you have to have good time management and stay dedicated to be ready for hockey season.”
Maschmeyer estimates that he’ll cover 54 miles a night in the air seeder, after which he’ll squeeze in a two-hour workout before falling into bed.
“You should see how exciting it is,” Maschmeyer said, bursting into laughter as he sketched out the route he takes each night. “I go down a row, I turn around, and I go back down the other row. I turn around again, and I go back down again. That’s actually what I do, and I’m out in the middle of nowhere by myself. You definitely need discipline to get through it.”
But the farm didn’t just teach Maschmeyer, who’s also a two-time WCHA Scholar-Athlete, the value of discipline and hard work. It’s where he learned to play hockey.
Every winter since Maschmeyer was five, his dad has built an outdoor rink in the front yard by a cattle dugout. Over time, it evolved from a simple half sheet of ice to a regulation-size rink complete with boards and Plexiglas.
“We were out on there every night,” Maschmeyer said. “We thought it was 1 a.m., but it was probably around 8:30 p.m. It was dark out, we were freezing, but that’s where we learned how to play hockey. That’s where we learned all our skills.”
During the summer grind, Maschmeyer has come up with creative ways to hone those skills, taking full advantage of the farm’s wide expanses. Last year, he posted a series of trick shot videos on Twitter, including one where he broke a plate from the top of a trailer 60 feet away.
“That one took me a bucket and a half of pucks,” Maschmeyer said. “It looks sweet, and it was a fun way to work on my skills. I’ve got to try a moving truck one this summer.”
But first he’ll have to get through seeding season. Asked whether farming or playing hockey is more challenging, Maschmeyer answered without hesitation.
“Definitely farming,” he said. “Hockey’s just like breathing. It’s what I do. It’s fun. Farming’s like, ’Alright, we’ve got to go through this grind. It’s happening again.’ After that month, I’m itching to get back on the ice."
Two new Wildcat teams are set to begin competition next season. Head coaches Emilia Ward and David Poggi sat down to discuss what it’s like to kick-start the women’s lacrosse and men’s soccer teams
Your team is the first at the Division II level in the Upper Peninsula. What does this mean for Northern Michigan?
Ward: The sport is growing in the state, especially at the Division II level. What’s fun with being the only team up here is we can help it at the youth and high school levels. It really hasn’t come up this far yet; Traverse is the most north it’s gotten. Trying to get youth players involved so they can eventually have the opportunity to play here will be great.
Poggi: Just being the first in anything is special. It’s great to be in the U.P., and it’s going to be a great addition to the area. We’re sitting above Wisconsin, which only has five scholarship programs in the state, and we’re east of Minnesota, and they have no scholarship programs offered for men’s soccer. It puts us in a good position with regards to recruiting.
You both have experience with building a team from scratch. What’s one lesson you will take from your past experience into making this team?
W: Patience through the recruiting process and really being patient with the program. There’s going to be ups and downs based on what players we have next year. Having realistic expectations for how the season is going to go is the biggest thing at this point.
P: There’s millions of lessons from it. We’re educated to feel that leadership is something you look to from above so you would expect that has to come from your seniors because they have experience. But when you have that way of thinking, it stifles the leadership of younger players. If you can start with a program where student-athletes become leaders, rather than inheriting a program with classes of players who kind of think it’s their right to be a leader, you can have a much stronger team.
What attributes are you looking for in potential student-athletes?
W: I look for great athletes. We can teach them basic skills, but not field sense or athleticism. I also look for athletes who work extremely hard on the field, especially after a mistake is made. Lastly, we look at coachability; is this going to be an athlete who can and wants to improve to get to her highest potential?
P: We’re looking for people who are excited by the experience, and they understand that the opportunity isn’t just playing soccer but also to get a great education. The whole reason for going to college is to get an education, and you get an education in your classes and you get an education in sports, so I want to help provide that. I’m looking for people who are open to those types of opportunities.
What areas are you recruiting
W: We have a good base out of Michigan right now. My assistant and I are both from here so we have pretty good ties with the high schools. We’re also tapping into the Minneapolis area quite a bit. We have a few from Canada, and we’re looking across the country. We expect the next two classes will be from all over the place.
P: I don’t limit myself to any particular area. Michigan is obviously important. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois were all areas I knew well and have coaching contacts so those geographically made sense. Beyond that, I’ve looked at areas where I have former players who are now coaches or where I have former colleagues who are in youth and club soccer and I reached out to them. So we’ll have some international players, we’ll have some transfer players; we’ll have players from all over. Most important is we’re bringing in some real good people regardless of where they’re coming from. I’m excited to get it started.
What do you think it will take for the team to be successful in the GLIAC?
W: Players willing to really work hard and have higher expectations of themselves will help us versus it coming from the coaching staff. That’s going to be the biggest thing, along with trying to get out of their comfort zone and just work.
P: To be successful, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. You have to work hard, work for each other, have a vision for where you’re going and have a passion for what you do. And if you have those things, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Premier League, the GLIAC or the World Cup.
Student-Athletes Taking the Lead
As a freshman, Bre Gaspervich learned what it takes to be a leader. This season, she applied those lessons to help guide the women’s basketball team to its fifth-straight GLIAC tournament.
Gaspervich appeared in every game but one during the 2013-14 campaign, her freshman year. That season, the women’s basketball team won the GLIAC tournament, earning a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Gaspervich averaged 9.9 minutes and 3.8 points per contest. Gaining playing time as a newcomer is always beneficial to a player’s development, but the most important experience she gained that year came from watching.
“There were a bunch of leaders on the team, like Lauren Gruber, Alyssa Colla, Katie Becker and Annie Rubendunst,” Gaspervich said. “They really showed me what it takes to be a leader.”
As a junior this season, Gaspervich stepped up for the Wildcats. She clocked a team-high 32.4 minutes and averaged a team-best 12 points per game. In February, she led Northern Michigan to a 4-1 record over a five-game stretch by reaching the 20-point plateau against Michigan Tech (21), Ferris State (27), Saginaw Valley State (24) and Hillsdale (26).
Gaspervich’s GLIAC opponents have recognized her rise. Based on a coaches’ vote, she earned all-GLIAC second and defensive team honors for the first time in her career. Her ability to impact a game from both ends of the floor hasn’t gone unnoticed by Wildcat head coach Troy Mattson ’86 BS, ’94 MA either.
“She’s a very unique person and player, one that does everything out on the court for us,” Mattson said. “She’s a total disruption on the defense and somebody that can control the game from the defensive end. On the offensive end, she’s got her game under control to where she’s taking good shots.”
Gaspervich has been asked to do more than just be a defensive disruption and take good shots.
“This season has been different than past years; I had to step up a lot more,” Gaspervich said. “I played a lot more than I did in my first two years while taking on a bigger role.”
The role Gaspervich is referring to is being a leader on a young Wildcat team. Out of the 12 players on the roster, eight are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Gaspervich says she was successful in guiding the team because she was able to fall back on the lessons she learned during her freshman season.
“I was able to tell the freshmen what to expect,” Gaspervich said. “I know what all the freshmen are going through.”
And Gaspervich, Northern Michigan’s 2016 Female Athlete of the Year, has helped set the team up for future success by carrying on its winning culture.
“She’s a big-time winner, and I can’t say enough about her,” Mattson said. “She’s a very humble person, one that doesn’t really look for accolades, but she is probably one of the biggest winners I have ever coached in my life.”
In the men’s swimming & diving team’s season of firsts, Ryan Knox-Leonard led the way.
Described by head coach Heidi Voigt as a “quiet leader,” Knox-Leonard ended his first year with several accolades, including becoming the team’s first GLIAC champion and first All-American since the program’s reestablishment after a 36-year absence.
“Ryan helped restart our program with amazing performances at the GLIAC Championships and NCAAs,” Voigt said. “He takes the time to do all the little things that make a good athlete great. I’m looking forward to his next three years.”
A South Wales, Australia, native, Knox-Leonard started his swimming career when he was 10 years old. When his sister began swimming competitively, he followed suit and started training alongside her, motivated by sibling rivalry.
“The first time I beat her, she actually chased me around the pool with a towel trying to hit me,” Knox-Leonard said, laughing. “I loved it and have had a competitive edge since then.”
With his competitive edge, he earned his first state title at 11 years old. At 13, he captured his first national medal, a bronze.
When it came time to choose a college, Knox-Leonard was drawn to Northern Michigan because he wanted to be part of something new.
“I like being a guinea pig,” Knox-Leonard said. “With an established team, they have a set schedule that they like to stick to, whereas newer teams are looking for ideas from the athletes. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to share with Coach Voigt.”
Wanting to come to Northern Michigan and “make a big statement,” Knox-Leonard worked hard to overcome his dislike of early mornings and do his best in the water, which paid off. He was named GLIAC Athlete of the Week after winning the 100 backstroke, 200 IM and 200 medley relay at a meet hosted by Wabash College on Jan. 8.
Knox-Leonard went on to make history at the GLIAC Championships, setting a school and meet record in the 400 IM to automatically qualify for the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. He went on to break that record at the NCAA championship meet and earned All-American accolades in that event and the 200 IM.
“The whole season has been an experience,” he said. “I can’t narrow it down to a single good point.”
Sten Fjeldheim '86 BS, '93 MA was named the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Cross Country Domestic Coach of the Year. It was the third time Fjeldheim was honored by the USSA. He first earned Cross Country Coach of the Year accolades in 1991 and then received the Cross Country Domestic Coach of the Year award in 2005.
The Wildcat men finished first among Nordic men’s teams at the NCAA National Championship with 150 points. Adam Martin and Ian Torchia earned first team All-American accolades in both the 10K freestyle and 20K classic. Jake Brown raced to a second team All-American finish in the 10K freestyle.
Jasmine Williams competed at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the weight throw on March 11. After placing 11th with a 58-0.50 mark, she was named to the USTFCCCA All-American second team.
Dominik Shine, Darren Nowick and Atte Tolvanen garnered all-WCHA honors. Shine and Nowick were named to the second team after finishing third (14g-15a) and fifth (11g-13a) respectively in the WCHA scoring race. Tolvanen earned the goaltender spot on the all-rookie squad after placing second in the WCHA in conference save percentage (.934) and sixth in conference saves (549). Nowick (Missouri Mavericks), Barrett Kaib '16 BS (Rapid City Rush) and Ryan Trenz '16 BS (Alaska Aces) signed amateur tryout contracts with ECHL teams after wrapping up their senior season. Nowick and Kaib each netted his first professional goal. Mathias Dahlstrom '16 BS inked a deal with a professional team, Södertälje SK, in his native Sweden.
The men’s golf team qualified for its first NCAA Central/Midwest Regional since 1999 after achieving a No. 6 ranking in the Midwest. This season, the Wildcats climbed as high as No. 15 in the nation in the Golfstat rankings and were tabbed No. 25 in the final Bushnell Golfweek Division II Coaches Poll of the fall. They finished in the top five at five events and posted their best finish at the GLIAC Championship since the 1998-99 campaign.
Terry Nash secured a spot on the all-GLIAC defensive team. The men’s basketball senior started all 26 games this season, averaging 32.4 minutes and pulling down a team-high 3.5 defensive rebounds per game.
Chris Ostrowsky announced the hiring of David Corrao as the football team’s defensive coordinator. Corrao spent the past eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He served as the team’s assistant linebacker coach for six seasons.